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  • Who We Are

Downstairs Cabaret Theatre has been a vital part of the Rochester theatre scene for 30 years as a not-for-profit (501-c-3) professional theatre. Since its inception in 1983, the Downstairs Cabaret has made its mark in the community by producing a diverse offering of musicals, comedies, dramas, new works, and music events in a year-round, repertory schedule. Mostly known locally and nationally for developing Nunsense and producing the world premiere of Forever Plaid, the DCT has always been an important player in the development of new works.


  • What We Do

In recent years, DCT has exploded onto the theatrical scene producing some of the most exciting new works as well as the most entertaining pieces in Rochester. Producing Director Christopher F. Kawolsky reopened the Theatre in February 1992 (after three years of inactivity). Since then, we have produced nearly 300 different productions, ranging from popular musicals such as I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, to the hilarious Run For Your Wife, to the Holocaust drama The Grey Zone, to the world premiere of James Lecesne's Word of Mouth(which went on to win Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Awards when later produced by Mike Nichols in NYC), to cabaret artists including Jim Van Slyke, Terese Genecco, KT Sullivan, Mark Nadler, Laura Theodore, D.C. Anderson, Quinn Lemley, and others.


  • Our Mission

Part of our mission includes producing non-traditional work which, by its nature, attracts non-traditional audiences. We draw many first-time theatregoers by providing opportunities to attend live theatrical performances to those who might not otherwise have the means or experience as a regular theatregoer.

We produce our own work and co-produce with other professional theatres nationally, allowing us to offer the Rochester community the finest productions possible ! We also have produced several national tours including the hugely popularAin't Misbehavin' which toured 80 cities in 35 states.

As an educational institution, we take great pride in our Education Program, which offers classes in acting, music, dance, and improvisation to students ages five through eighteen.


  • DCT's Beginnings...

Downstairs Cabaret opened in 1983 and achieved non-profit status in 1984. The Theatre operated at 166 Andrews Street, underneath Beam's Restaurant, before moving next door to the basement of 151 St. Paul Street. After 14 years, it moved to 20 Windsor Street in the East End's Cultural District. We have offered thousands of performances of 300 productions, with annual attendance reaching 26,000. Since moving to the 20 Windsor Street location, our activity has exploded. In January 2002, the Grosodonia Family donated 540 East Main Street housing a 99-seat theatre, classrooms, and production support spaces. And in December 2010, we renovated the former Comix Cafe at Winton Place in Brighton into a 200-seat theatre where larger productions are staged.


  • Where We've Come...

In addition to its home locations, Downstairs Cabaret has brought performances to many other satellite locations through the years: Gauss Building on Andrews Street, performing space at the Crystal Barn Complex in Pittsford, Fairport Harbor House, Canandaigua Academy High School, Smith Opera House in Geneva, SUNY Brockport, Keuka College, Harro East Auditorium, School of the Arts Ensemble Theatre, and many others.

We have several performances per week, usually of a few different productions, offering a variety of theatrical experiences (ranging from family shows to contemporary productions) and attracting the widest possible audience. We have been very aggressive in our marketing efforts to develop non-traditional as well as traditional theatre audiences.


  • Our Partners...

We have a relationship with several local colleges and high schools, sometimes bringing in students for special student performances with post-performance question and answer sessions between the students and cast. We also provide internship / apprenticeship opportunities for young people from local colleges as well as those as far away as Eastern Washington University in Washington state. For nearly 2 decades, we have offered classes in acting, voice, and dance for youth and adults.

We have produced, co-produced and booked-in various productions allowing for the finest quality productions possible. Our productions have received public and critical acclaim and have often been the theatrical highlights and in some cases the most popular shows ever produced in Rochester. Highlights of our 300 dramas, musicals, comedies, and new works have included:


  • Our Shows...

The world premiere of WORD OF MOUTH, which went on to win the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards in NYC, and was, produced off-Broadway by Mike Nichols. A character from WORD OF MOUTH was the subject of a short feature film (Trevor), which won the 1995 Oscar Award for Best Live Action Short. JIMMY TINGLE'S UNCOMMON SENSE transferred directly to New York's American Place Theatre from the Downstairs Cabaret Theatre (Jimmy was then signed to "60 Minutes II" television program, appearing weekly as the Andy Rooney equivalent). WORKING CLASS with Richard Hoehler transferred directly to New York's Mint Theatre to open its season. HUMAN RESOURCES (also with Richard Hoehler) received its world premiere at the Downstairs Cabaret and subsequently played off-Broadway.

Direct transfers or collaborations from Off-Broadway have included MATTY: An Evening With Christy Mathewson and HAVE A NICE DAY; from Chicago: COBB; from Sacramento:FROM THE MISSISSIPPI DELTA; from Philadelphia: LONELY PLANET and PRETTY FIRE; from Buffalo: A...MY NAME IS ALICE andJEFFERY; from Toronto: HALF LIFE,DEARHEART, HOW TO LEAVE ADOLESCENCE AT 30, CLEAN IRENE & DIRTY MAXINE, THE UNFORGETTING, THICK, andTHE SLIP KNOT; and from Austin: BEEHIVE.

Downstairs Cabaret is often one of the first theatres in the country to receive the rights to produce newer works outside of New York City, including SHOUT! The Mod Musical; I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE; THE NEWS IN REVUE; SECRETS EVERY SMART TRAVELER SHOULD KNOW; and FLANAGAN'S WAKE.

It has produced the world premiere of many different shows including: FOREVER PLAID; DOUBLE DUET; HEARTS-TO-GO; WHAT WE DON'T CONFESS; and AVA.

Similarly, it has contributed to theatre as an artform by oftentimes producing the second production of other important new works such asTHE GREY ZONE , DEARHEART, HAVE A NICE DAY, and CLEARING HEDGES: Babe Didrickson Zaharias.

Downstairs Cabaret was invited to bring its production of THE GREY ZONE (the second production in the country) to The Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.In 2001, Downstairs Cabaret Theatre mounted the 25th Anniversary National Tour of SNOOPY!, in conjunction with Mainstage Productions. Based on the success of that tour, Downstairs Cabaret Theatre subsequently mounted two National Tours ofAIN'T MISBEHAVIN' with Windwood Theatricals, which toured 80 cities in 35 states. Susequent National Tours have included SHOUT: THE MOD MUSICAL, GEORGE M. COHAN TONIGHT, andTHE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL. The three longest running shows in Rochester theatre history were all produced at Downstairs Cabaret Theatre: NUNSENSE; I LOVE YOU, YOU'RE PERFECT, NOW CHANGE; and THE WATER COOLERS.

As a professional theatre, Downstairs Cabaret often hires some of the top talent in the country: Broadway (Jo Ellyn Bigelow who appeared in our production of AND THE WORLD GOES ROUNDwas Bernadette Peters' understudy for Mack and Mabel; David Sitler left the Broadway production of An Inspector Calls to perform the lead role in our production of IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST; and Will Stutts who has performed numerous one-man shows at Downstairs Cabaret Theatre was on Broadway with George C. Scott, Colleen Dewhurst, and others); Off-Broadway (Amy Coleman of the original off-Broadway production of THE LAST SESSION reprised her role as "Vicki" in our recent production of the same musical); film and television (James Lecesne and Jimmy Tingle). The Theatre also has had several composers and playwrights in residence at Downstairs Cabaret Theatre during productions of their creations.

Downstairs Cabaret Theatre in association with Blandino Productions produced THICK at the 2005 New York International Fringe Festival.THICK was one of 183 shows chosen from more than 800 script submissions, and playwright / actor Rick Bland was awarded Best Actor.


  • Our Reviews

"Chris Lemmon had us ALL laughing and crying - what a Wonderful Talent! LOVED Chris's performance and his music, too - a Great Tribute to his Dad.  Be sure to see this Amazing show!" - Audience member following performance of A Twist of Lemmon


"Fantastic Show. Well worth the drive from Syracuse." - Audience member following performance of The Bikinis 

"We laughed till we cried. The whole production ran like clockwork and never skipped a beat. I spent the next day at our corporate headquarters in Rochester telling everyone that they had to see The Water Coolers. I would recommend this show to businesses that are looking for a fun yet terrific outing for their employees. In a lighthearted way, the show lets us look at ourselves in our daily routines and teaches us not to take ourselves too seriously ... Keep up the good work." - Paychex


"We loved the show. It was a very personal-like atmosphere. The service is always impeccable, and everything ran like clockwork. Downstairs Cabaret Theatre is always accommodating in scheduling events for us when the show isn't even on the calendar!" 
- DePrez Travel


"The compliments are still ringing in my ears and it's all thanks to all of you. We even impressed the guys from New York City! The way you 'customized' your performance for our group was especially appreciated. You really made us feel special." - Chase Bank

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